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SREBRENICA (Bosnia-Hercegovina), July 28: Dusica, a Serb, and her husband Almir, a Muslim, have beat the odds. Braving ethnic and religious divisions they have built a life together in this ill-fated east Bosnian town.

Srebrenica, the site of the worst atrocity in Europe since the World War II, buried on July 11 more than 400 victims identified since the previous anniversary of the 1995 genocide, when Bosnian Serb forces executed 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

Almir Salihovic, himself a massacre survivor, was raised as a refugee in the northeastern town of Tuzla.

His six uncles were killed after Bosnian Serb forces captured then UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995.

Almir, now 33, used to go into the neighbouring mountains every spring to work as a shepherd. Three years ago he met there a Serb shepherdess, Dusica Rendulic, and they fell in love.

“We spent the summer together, in the fields, and (then) decided to marry and come to live in Srebrenica on my parents’ land,” he said.

But a seemingly ordinary love story was overshadowed by Dusica’s nationality.

“Yes, I wondered at the beginning, I was aware it was a big decision,” admitted Almir.

“But I have always told myself that there is a reason for everything, so there was a reason to marry this woman,” said the thin man with short-cut brown hair.

Dusica, a Croatian Serb, fled her neighbouring homeland to Bosnia at the eve of the 1991-1995 war there.

Almir said he “could never put Dusica on the same side with the killers.”

“We are not all alike. One cannot blame an entire nation for crimes committed by individuals. Also, her destiny is similar to mine,” he said.

Dusica, her gingerish hair tied in a ponytail, admitted that their mixed marriage might be seen as “bizarre” or even “impossible” in Srebrenica.

But she was sure she has married a “sincere and honest man” who “just happens to be” a Muslim, saying that “it was a destiny that we have met.”

“I was attracted to him because of all he has lived through. We share the same thoughts about life, the future, we are very close,” she said.

Before the war that claimed some 100,000 lives mixed couples accounted for almost 13 per cent of all marriages in Bosnia.

Nowadays only about four per cent of all couples are from different ethnic communities.

“It is so rare nowadays in Bosnia, and especially in Srebrenica, to see two people capable of overcoming prejudices and divisions imposed by political classes,” said Dragana Jovanovic of a local non-governmental organisation Friends of Srebrenica. The couple, now with a one-year old son Jusuf, have put aside the mistrust between the two ethnic communities, just trying to deal with the “everyday struggle to survive.”—AFP